You Are Kidding Me!

I'm sure you'd hyperventilate if you found that you're jumping from an only child to the brother of three siblings. Make the three new arrivals a tomboy, the new favourite in the family and the girl-you-fall-for-who-hates-you-at-first-sight, and you have the makings of a nightmare. Alas for Nathaniel K. Smith, its a living one.
Despite his usual tenacity, determination and way too vivid imagination, this is certainly beyond his wildest dreams. With his reputation on the line, will he be able to keep the terrifying additions to his family a secret?
Jeer, cheer, laugh or aww in this way too cheesy reminder that coincidences are never coincidences, love is never easy and not to ever wish life was less boring...

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20. Chapter 19

Elizabeth's pov

How do you pretend someone doesn’t exist when your world revolves around him? If you live with your the guy you hate in the same house, not talking to him is just impossible. But I managed.
We knew there would be a finale for this on Friday. We all tried to avoid it.
But at last Friday dinner was over. I offered to wash the dishes, but my sisters dragged me up the stairs with brute strength and hammered on Nathaniel’s door. They would have broken it down if he hadn’t opened it and they tumbled in.
“We. Need. To. Talk.” My sister enunciates each word, ignoring the fact that he's half naked and sprawled all over his bed. Looks like she’s inherited more of me than I’ve bargained for. Nathaniel’s expression of amusement is masked by a steely expression. “No we don’t.”
“For goodness sake!” Crystal throws up her hands in exasperation.

o~O~o

Nathaniel's pov

“Can you two stop fighting? We’re not going to take part in this mess. Call us back when both of you can talk properly.”
She grabs Esther’s hand and the two march off. I hear the door slam and their clattering of feet.
She and I just stare at each other awkwardly. I’m munching on chips and lounging on the bed, and she’s sitting on the floor. I offer her some chips and get a shirt thrown in my face for my efforts.
“Put it on,” she mumbles, scarlet. 
“Kay.” I slip it on and we keep silent. The silence is unsettling because it only causes the tension, the intangible thoughts between us to grow clearer. We both want this to end, and end positively. The question is, how?

o~O~o

Elizabeth's pov

“I’m sorry,” Nathaniel’s voice quietly comes over his book. 
Sometimes, I guess we have to become kindergartners again and start from basics.
“I got jealous ever since I saw how you and Henry got on so well. Don’t get me wrong, I know Henry is changed ever since Kayla came into his life, but the fact that you acted so comfortably around him and not around me stung.”
“And then Justin had to come along and mess it all up by saying those things.” He throws the book on the floor and I flinch at the sound. He lays back on the bed, staring at the ceiling. “And I was so mad, so angry, I wasn’t thinking, Elizabeth.”

“I’m sorry too.” This is pathetic, but I’ll do anything to get this over and done with. “I’m sorry for not trusting you enough to ask what’s going on, sorry for letting you endure the rumours alone, sorry for shutting you out.”
We smile at each other, and suddenly he’s on the floor with me.
He takes me by the hand, and I realise the warmth in his palm and how cold mine is.
“Elizabeth,” he swallows thickly. “When I said I didn’t like you, that was as far from the truth as I could get. I like you.”
For some reason time doesn’t stand still, but an incredible feeling spreads over my chest, my legs, my hands tingling in his grasp. 
“I think I feel the same way.”

o~O~o

Nathaniel's pov

Her words are like clear, pure water, slowly seeping through my mind.
I can hardly believe my ears. How could the stoic, staid Elizabeth possibly be blushing and confessing her feelings to me?
It has to be a dream.
I take her hand and look deeply into her eyes.
I see sincerity, and nothing else.
What a pretty darn good dream.
Suddenly, the door slams open, and I hurriedly drop Elizabeth’s hands, inwardly cursing. 
Adieu, fantasy. Hi reality.
Esther stands at the doorway, happily waving. She stops short at the sight of her sister transfixed on me.

Just when it seems things can’t get worse, they do.
I hear Crystal racing into the room.
oh no.
In a bid to run away from this mess, I get careless. I trip on the pile of toys in my room, and I land right on Elizabeth. 
I knew I should have cleaned my room when my mother told me to.
I find myself doing what I’ve longed to do for months.
To my horror. 
My lips meet hers, and I do a double take.
Her eyes close, savouring the moment and then they snap open in shock when she realises the situation she’s in. 

She immediately pulls away, gives me a panic-stricken look and races to the sanctuary of her room amidst the snickers and smirks of her sisters.

Her fear shatters every ounce of hope I have summoned.

x~X~x

Nathaniel's pov

I lie in bed staring at the ceiling.
This is it. This is the end of everything I’ve wanted.
It’ll be a miracle if she even looks at me again.
I gingerly touch my lips, and give a little shake of my head.
A tear rolls down my cheek.
And another
And another.
I realise I am now crying. An emotion I haven’t displayed since I was beaten up when I was 10.
The door creaks open, and I hastily turn my head to face the wall, trying to suck in my tears. It obviously fails.
I hear the soft pad of slippers and jolt up.
“Here.” 

Its Esther. She holds up her favourite teddy bear. For one stupid moment I wonder if she’s asking me to comfort it, which is stupid. I’m the one who needs to be consoled.
Then it hits me - she’s offering me her teddy bear. As a peace offering.
A wave of anger overcomes me, and I fling it to the side. It hits the wall and slides out of side amid a pile of dirty clothes. She rushes to pick it up and lets out a shriek of horror.
“Its dirty!“ She cries.
Suddenly, the full of sunshine, the happy go lucky Esther bursts in loud wails. I search desperately around the room for something to comfort her, to no avail. Elizabeth and Crystal charge into the room and demand what’s going on.

“He… he… HE DIRTIED DADDY’S PRESENT TO MUMMY!”
“You brute!” Crystal cries. “My daddy hand made this teddy bear for our mummy, and you toss it aside!” 
I refuse to look at them. I know they despise me now. For taking advantage of their sister. For making them upset. For damaging something precious to them. 
Crystal picks up the teddy bear and caresses it lovingly. As she stalks out of the room, she spits, “You don’t deserve my sister!” Eyes shooting like daggers, she leaves. I force myself to look up into the eyes of Elizabeth. There are no traces of shock, anger, hatred. She merely looks sad, and I long to run to her and comfort her. 
Then she gathers the still crying Esther in her arms and returns to her room. 

I fling myself on the bed and bury my head in the pillow. 
I am choked with guilt. That present was dear to them because her father had made it for her mother.
What have I done?

x~X~x

Nathaniel's pov

I wake up the next day to find the house in utter chaos. Father is gone to work, and Mother, Crystal and Esther are racing around the house, the neighbourhood, calling for Elizabeth frantically. 
I sigh. This is all my fault. I think about the times we’ve been together, the things she’s told me, the places she’d go if she was upset...
Wait. I run through my mind all the places she’s mentioned. One stands out in my head.
I have an inkling where she is now, but I’m reluctant in case my hunch turns out to be false. No use leading them on a wild goose chase.
So I write a short note, “Gone to look for Elizabeth,” pen down the address and leave.

I catch a bus and pray I’m on the right track.
I get off at a small, quaint little town. People smile and wave at me, and I smile and wave before inquiring if they know an Elizabeth. A bustling lady carrying parcels beams. “Indeed I do, she lives near me!” she says before saddening. “But she moved with her sisters, the poor li’l girl. So young and an orphan!”
I want to explain it all to her, but there’s no time. Instead, I help carry her purchases to the door and she points at the corner of the neighbourhood.
“That’ll black one be her house. Hasn’t been stayed in for quite some time. Good luck finding her!” she winks at me. I thank her and race towards the house.

o~O~o

Elizabeth's pov

I sigh as I survey my surroundings. My mattress is thin, and the blanket even thinner. I doubt I can stay here for long.  Rubbing my back, I stretch and then go exploring. Everything has been taken from the house except some essentials. There’s a flashlight and some cans of food, which I carry up to the room Crystal and Esther used to sleep in. I look at the pale white walls with peeling wallpaper, and sigh. The whole house is steeped with memories, and I’ll drown in them if I stay much longer.
Isn’t it funny? When I was with Nathaniel, I longed to get away from him as much as possible. Yet now I’m wishing he’s by my side. He’d make light of this situation and help me out. He’d definitely bring more food though. I touch my lips and smile. 

No matter what I definitely don’t regret what happened, despite the accident that led to it.
I sigh and unpack. I have one set of clean clothes, two sets of underwear, toiletries (the bathroom still works by some miracle), food and water. I also have cash to buy essentials. 
I open my journal and begin writing.

Reasons I hate Nathaniel
Reasons I like Nathaniel.
I could do this all day.
A low growl rumbles from a dark corner, and I look up nervously. Out from the shadows steps a dog, half my size but twice as menacing, snarling at me. I throw him an empty food can and he interestedly sniffs at it before turning back to me.

I stiffen. I’ve run into stray dogs before, but not as demanding, and certainly not in my vulnerable position. I stay still, motionless, barely breathing, hoping 1. he’ll go away 2. hope against hope someone will rescue me.
The dog comes closer.

o¬O¬o

Nathaniel's pov

I tiptoe up the stairs of the house. The door has been unlocked, confirming my suspicions. I get to the top and peer into the first bedroom. To my delight I see shadows, then a familiar back. I open my mouth to call to her, but words die in my throat when I see the predicament she’s in.
She’s huddled near the wall, and a huge bulldog is growling at her.
Without thinking I step out and yell. “Yo!”
The dog turns his focus onto me and leaps. I skid, dodging, and throw a biscuit down for him. He stops, sniffs the biscuit, and then gobbles the food down. He becomes as playful as a puppy once consuming the food, and lolls at my feet while Elizabeth looks on, stunned. She looks at me and then breaks into a relieved smile.

We set off for the elderly lady’s house, where I learn her name is Mrs Blackburn and she is a great friend of Elizabeth’s. Surprisingly, the dog runs to Mrs Blackburn and licks her, uttering small yelps of happiness while we look on in utter disbelief. On hearing our plight, Mrs Blackburn clucks her tongue and severely chastises the dog.
“Don’t you youngsters worry, my Bruno won’t hurt a hair on your head. He just puts on a fine act to get food.”
We smile weakly and bid Mrs Blackburn and Bruno goodbye.

“Shall we go somewhere to talk?”
Nodding, she leads the way to a small park not far from her house. 
“Its where I used to play as a young child,” She explains. You can definitely see it is precious to her as she carefully touches every slide and stair, looks around at the place with shining eyes as if its a castle and less of a playground.
Suddenly she runs in circles, yelling and cheering. I follow suit and we are soon panting in exhilaration.
Exhausted, we sit on the swing at the park, both of us unsure of what to say.

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